King Suckerman is the second in what is known as The Washington Quartet, the series of books, starting with the Big Blowdown, that take place in Washington, D.C. over the years. King Suckerman takes place in 1976 and is about two friends who, through their own tangential connection to the drug world and impetuousness, get involved with some total psycho criminals. One of the characters is Dmitri Karras, a young, good-looking guy just living the easy life, getting high, playing basketball, chasing women and just dealing a little weed on the side. He is the son of the main character from The Big Blowdown. His friend, Marcus Clay, is a black guy who runs his own record store and though likes to party and ball, has got his life shit together. He also was in some kind of badass outfit in 'Nam (that always helps).
If I hadn't read The Big Blowdown first, I would have come away from King Suckerman with a very different view of the author. This book is fast and tough, not bothering to spend a lot of time on the kind of character depth and culture texture its predecessor did. It reminded me a lot of Charles Willeford, crazy people on a criminal roll and things just happening. There is certainly a lot of emphasis placed on the period, music, clothes and cars are carefully detailed. And in passing the reader is shown what became of the immigrant neighbourhoods of the 40s. But it doesn't capture a time and place so totally.
That's not a criticism, though, because the lack of depth of place is not reallly an omission. I suspect it might have even been done on purpose, maybe Pelecano's way of trying to capture that fast and loose feeling of the 70s. The story moves, the characters are cool and there is a lot of pretty rough action. It gets dark at parts, too. A bit nasty, even.
It's neat the way Pelecanos has stretched his characters across such a long time span. I'm quite psyched to start the third book in the series to see where he takes it in the 80s.